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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Vatican following case of Chinese Bishop Ma, spokesman says

The Vatican said it has had no direct contact with Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who apparently wrote a blog post in June that gave many people the impression he had recanted an earlier decision to abandon the Chinese government’s Catholic Patriotic Association.

At his episcopal ordination in 2012 – an assignment that came unusually with the approval of both then-Pope Benedict XVI and the Chinese government – Bishop Ma said he would no longer hold any position in the Catholic Patriot Association so that he could focus on pastoral work and evangelisation. He was immediately placed under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary and the government rescinded his appointment.

Paying homage to the late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai in a blog attributed to Bishop Ma on 12th June, he said co-operation with the patriotic association was one of the reasons why Bishop Jin was so successful in his ministry.

With Bishop Ma under house arrest, the Diocese of Shanghai has been without a bishop since Bishop Jin died in 2014 at the age of 96.

Bishop Ma – if he wrote the blog – said it may have been unwise to renounce all ties with the government-run association. The decision, the blog said, was influenced by “outside pressure” and the bishop has been struggling in conscience ever since.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, in a blog post on Wednesday, reportedly called on the Vatican to “clarify and give guidance” in the wake of the news about Bishop Ma. With Catholics confused about co-operating with the government’s control of the Church, “not saying anything is irresponsible,” the cardinal said, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

In response to questions, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said on Thursday that all the information the Vatican has was obtained from Bishop Ma’s blog and press reports. “No direct information is currently available,” he said.

“The personal and ecclesial life of Msgr. Ma Daqin, like that of all Chinese Catholics, is followed with particular care and concern by the Holy Father, who remembers them daily in prayer,” Fr Lombardi said.

Photo: A well-wisher kisses the ring of Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin following his 2012 episcopal ordination at St Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai.